Judge Cuts Hicks' Sentence from 7 Years to 9 Months Australian detainee David Hicks today became the first person to be convicted at a U.S. war crimes trial since World War II. But in a startling development, the judge in the case reduced Hicks' sentence to nine months — not the seven years that he faced. Hicks could be free by the end of 2007.
NPR logo

Judge Cuts Hicks' Sentence from 7 Years to 9 Months

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/9248761/9248763" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Judge Cuts Hicks' Sentence from 7 Years to 9 Months

Judge Cuts Hicks' Sentence from 7 Years to 9 Months

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/9248761/9248763" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

At Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, today, David Hicks became the first person to be convicted under the new Military Commissions Act. Hicks is an Australian citizen and under a plea agreement, he faces a maximum sentence of seven years in prison for providing material support for terrorism. That time can be served in a prison in Australia.

NPR's Jackie Northam is at Guantanamo Bay. And, Jackie, David Hicks pleaded guilty to the terrorism charge on Monday. Back in court today, tell us, please, about what happened.

JACKIE NORTHAM: Well, the judge, Colonel Ralph Coleman, ran through a whole list of allegations against Hicks. They essentially followed the trajectory of his few months in Afghanistan, right through to when he was captured there in December 2001. And some of the allegations talked about how Hicks trained at al-Qaida camps. He learned about weapons and basic explosives. He was trained in urban warfare at one camp, and that included kidnapping techniques and the assassination methods.

And the allegations also depict how he fought with the Taliban and al-Qaida members against U.S. and coalition forces, and then how he fled once it became clear that the Taliban was losing. Hicks sold his weapon to help pay for a taxi to Pakistan. He never made it. He was captured before he got there by the Northern Alliance.

Hicks pleaded guilty to every one of the 35 allegations read out by the judge today.

BLOCK: Was there new information in these allegations?

NORTHAM: Well, for the most part, these allegations are similar to the original charge sheet that the military put out against him. But there are some notable exceptions and omissions. For example, an earlier allegation said that when the 9-11 attacks happened, Hicks was watching it on TV at a friend's house in Pakistan and that he expressed approval of the attacks.

However, in a new allegation, it said his friend only interpreted it as approval, and that the same friend said that Hicks had told him that he had no prior knowledge about what was going to happen on that September 11th. And there was no reason given as to why several changes such as this occurred, but it undoubtedly is part of the plea agreement that was hammered out before this trial restarted again today.

BLOCK: And did you get any indication of what David Hicks may have offered the Pentagon in exchange for adjusting some of those allegations?

NORTHAM: There are quite a number of conditions that Hicks has agreed to under this plea agreement. He has to drop any claims of mistreatment by the U.S. since he was captured in Afghanistan. He cannot talk to the media for at least one year. And he can never profit from telling his story about his time with the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan, or his capture. If he does sell that story, all the profits go to the Australian government.

Now when called upon, Hicks will also have to testify at other similar military trials and he'll have to cooperate with the Australian intelligence agencies when he's needed.

BLOCK: Now, we mentioned that David Hicks can serve out his time in an Australian prison. What do you know about when he might be sent back to Australia and if he'll have to serve the full seven years of that sentence?

NORTHAM: Well, Judge Coleman said today, that under the plea agreement, Hicks will be transferred back to Australia sometime within the next two months. Even though he's been sentenced to seven years, Judge Coleman has the discretion to suspend part of that sentence. He's to take into account the five years Hicks has been at Guantanamo already.

BLOCK: Jackie, how did David Hicks react today at the courtroom there in Guantanamo Bay?

NORTHAM: Today, he was a completely different David Hicks than we saw earlier this week. He came in looking very smart in a charcoal gray suit. It had a new - his hair was cut short, whereas the other day, he came in wearing prison garbs and he had long hair down in the middle of his back. He's very deferential to the judge, unlike Monday when he was last in court.

Today, he stood up when the judge came in and he stood up again when the judge exited. And there's probably a pretty good reason for that, because now it's up to the judge to decide how much more time David Hicks has to spend in prison.

BLOCK: NPR's Jackie Northam at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Jackie, thanks very much.

NORTHAM: Thank you, Melissa.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.